Esperanza Spalding

photographed by Andy Batt – October 2018

This is project that took a few years of scheduling and relationship building—but in October I was finally able to get Esperanza into the studio for an incredible portrait session. She’d been touring for a new album, but was going to be in Portland to visit friends and to be part of a gala night for the nonprofits; Bienestar, an amazing group that creates housing and opportunity for the Portland latino community. The event was “An Evening of Esperanza”, with a performance & silent auction. I was asked to create 2 portraits of Esperanza, one to be auctioned and one to be printed and placed in the “goodie bag” the VIP ticket holders would get.

I dug in to Esperanza’s back catalog, getting a sense of the incredibly diverse range of her music. I did a bunch of “coffee shop sessions”, sketching mind-mapping and just daydreaming. I began to have a glimpse of an idea—I wasn’t sure what it was exactly, or where it would lead, but decided to follow that ghost.

I ended up building a tiny tiny setwall box, and painted it with metallic silver paint—I wanted to create a compressed space to put a big personality—to create some visual tension and allow for her to express a physicality with movement or pressure. I used a very specialized lighting technique to create a hard, defined circle of light—I felt that the clean geometry of a circle would make a connection with her.

And because I’m me, I also wanted to create a classic B&W seated portrait, beautifully and simply lit. Something similar to the way I photographed Senator Jeff Merkley.

It was a great session—Esperanza gave me a generous amount of time, and enjoyed the experience; she’s a wonderful collaborator. I look forward to our next project together.

-andy batt

A shout out to Pro Photo Supply – who generously sponsored the printing of the framed auction print and the gift bag portraits! Get your printing (and cameras and media and lights and all the good stuff) at PPS!